Here's the word from the experts at the PIC Insurance Brokers pre-Race Clinic for 2015:
The forecast - Jon Bilger, PredictWind
Weather is always difficult to predict with any certainty this far out from the race, and this year it's looking even more uncertain, with different forecasting models giving conflicting information. At the time of the race clinic, both PredictWind models showed a NW breeze of less than 20 knots, turning SW on Saturday morning, with a Northerly swell up to 1m, along with some rain as the front goes through with the SW change.
The GFS model (from NOAA and displayed in PredictWind routing) showed mostly 15 knots SW for the race, but now this has changed back to follow the PredictWind models, so you'd be well advised to keep an eye on PredictWind.com as we get closer, to see how the picture develops and the timing of the front. Update: at the time of writing, the PredictWind models are both showing 15 knots NW at the start, strengthening to 20-25 NW further up the coast in the afternoon and throughout the evening into Saturday morning.
Tactics - Casper, North Sails
To finish first, first you must finish - so make boat and race preparation a priority. Gear breakage not only puts your crew in danger, it will quickly put you at the back of the fleet or out of the race altogether - so check it before race day. With two possible scenarios - an upwind or downwind race - it will remain to be seen what the winning tactics are on the day. Upwind scenario In the event of an upwind race, which is looking likely at this stage, consider the steady tidal flow - low tide is 9.38am at Devonport, so watch the incoming tides. Short tacking up to Whangaparaoa may be the best option. If the NW breeze backs further left, avoid too many tacks after Whangaparaoa - it just wastes time. Stay inside the Poor Knights, and consider the Hen and Chicks carefully - the longer route outside can actually give you gains. With the breeze likely to back, stay on port tack as much as possible to gain the lifts, and spend as little time on starboard as you can to avoid the inevitable knocks. A lot happens in the last third of the coast towards Cape Brett. It's a game of patience. Low tide is 10.36pm in Russell, so watch the outgoing until then, and capitalise on the incoming after. Downwind scenario At this stage the forecast breeze will stay left, so make a straight line for Whangaparaoa. Try to make an early call about which course you'll take - either inside or outside the Hen and Chicks. The breeze tends to get light around Ngunguru, and the waters off Whangarei can be tricky, so beware of land and cliffs and the effects they can have on the breeze. If the breeze is SW, stay off the land, especially closer to the Brett. If there's breeze around, ‘thread the needle' and stay inside Piercy Island, but Cape Brett is renowned for its wind holes so be sure there's enough wind if you do.
Virtual race - Matthew Flynn, Race Director
Make sure you're familiar with the race route on the chart - in particular the lights you'll see coming up the coast. Don't rely on your GPS alone - get the light list from the Almanac and identify them as you pass. You and your crew should know where you are at all times - especially at night. Look after your crew well - prepare them early for darkness, and layer up before anyone gets cold. Cold and tired crew make bad decisions which can cost you the race. Check in with crew at Kawau - are they all OK to continue? There are limited places to stop from here on in, so if there are any potential issues, you need to know now. If you need to pull out and head into Tutukaka, take particular care - the entrance can be tricky. And mind Elizabeth Reef off the coast at Whananaki - it has claimed many boats. When you reach Russell, the finish line is between two buoys - one off the finish boat and another in transit with Russell Wharf. Thanks for taking part, and we wish you a safe and great ride.
As always, safety is paramount in this year’s PIC Insurance Brokers Coastal Classic. Use VHF channel 16 as your first option to call for help in an emergency. Think also about how you would communicate if you’re thrown into the water, or if your boat is inverted. Carrying a PLB or waterproof VHF on your person is definitely a good idea. When calling in your skeds at Flat Rock, Sail Rock and Cape Brett, speak S-L-O-W-L-Y and use the following format:
This will ensure the correct operator picks up your call, so as to avoid delays and let you get back to trimming sails as quickly as possible! Thanks to our speakers and all who attended the Race Clinic. We hope this helps, and we look forward to seeing you at the Briefing.